Fri 3 Oct 2008
When I wrote about cabernet sauvignon wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma County last week, I omitted one because I thought it deserved mention by itself.
The first vintage from this new winery, the Phifer Pavitt “Date Night” 2005, Napa Valley, made from cabernet sauvignon grapes with a touch of petit verdot, is a dark, heady, smoky, exotic scrumptious wine, and before you say, “Oh, right, typical modern California,” let me add that it is not over-opulent, not overdone’ it’s stylish but not mannered. Yes, the black currant flavors, threaded on a line of mulberry, are rich and ripe, fleshy and meaty — and deepen as moments pass into platonic plums — but the wine is kept taut and controlled by chastening elements of mocha powder and dried ancho chili, by an immense mineral character, and by polished tannins that lend some earthy austerity to the finish. Seventeen months in French oak, 65 percent new barrels, provide firm, close to formidable, foundation and framework. Almost the most notable aspect of this wine is its complete sense of confidence and presence, its liveliness and vitality, its supple expressiveness, its dark and statuesque charisma; there’s something of the ultimate reaches of the cabernet sauvignon grape about it, it’s that pure and intense. We drank this with a medium rare strip steak, grilled outside over hardwood charcoal, and the match was pure delight and gratification. We nibbled some exquisite dark chocolate to finish the meal, sipping the rest of the wine, and the synergy practically blew our heads off. This is one of the best debut wines I have ever tasted from Napa Valley. Drink now through 2015 or ’17. Production was 300 cases. Exceptional. About $75.